Garry Winogrand by Leo Rubinfien, Sarah Greenough, Susan Kismaric, Erin O’Toole, Tod Papageorge, Sandra Phillips. Published by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in association with Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-19177 (hardback).
Gary Winogrand’s friend, Lee Friedlander, is quoted of saying about Winogrand: “He was a bull of a man and the world was his china shop.” This book is a bull of a book: 464 pages, 401 black and white full-frame images – some familiar and others which have never before been published – edited and printed from Winogrand’s driven legacy of thousands of rolls of unprocessed films. Weighing in at 2.877kg (6lb 5.5oz) it is indeed, a heavyweight tome.
Winogrand died in 1984 at the age of 56, leaving behind an enormous archive of over 35,000 prints, 22,000 contact sheets and 45,000 colour transparencies. Perhaps even more astonishing are the 6,500 rolls of unprocessed films, testimony to a manic obsession.
Nearly 28 years later, this book is the catalogue to a retrospective of Winogrand’s work from the late 1960s and early 70s, when Winogrand day after day stalked the streets of New York with his Leicas and a bag of film over his shoulder.
Thankfully this book’s scope is broad, showing that for those not aware Winogrand was more than just a street photographer, and that although his favoured hunting ground was New York, it was not his only one. By Winogrand’s standards the photographs from Los Angeles are often subdued, but they manage to capture the pace of the west coast just as sharply as his Chicago or New York pictures reflect the hustle of these more aggressive and gritty eastern cities.
The images are beautifully printed – in the US – in duotone on a quality matt art stock… and none of the images spread across two pages. A particular gripe of mine are art books which have images cut in half by the spine: this book avoids this throughout for the photo plates. This is not to say that the photo reproductions don’t vary in quality, they do. Generally they’re okay, but occasionally what should be black sometimes drifts to mid-grey. My guess this is because of Winogrand’s manic way of working, hectic pace and erratic exposures. Some of the negatives must be a nightmare to print, and the book’s reproductions perhaps reflects this.
Along with the 401 photographs, accompanying essays have been commissioned by those listed above. Interesting though they are, especially Rubinfien’s biographical account, they are not particularly enlightening for anyone already familiar with Winogrand’s photography. My favourite is Kismaric’s greatly expanded chronology and bibliography research, which, as a firm Winogrand fan, is alone worth the price of the book.
Often imitated and seldom bettered, Gary Winogrand is a giant of postwar American, raw, edgy, ‘snapshot’ photography, and this book is a welcome addition to the catalogue of this compulsive street shooting icon.
Just make sure you have a solid shelf!